London: A simple diet, which is very low on calorie and high in protein combined with regular exercise, could end the misery of arthritis for millions of sufferers, according to new research.
A relatively small weight loss can have a dramatic effect by reducing swelling, relieving pain and even helping prevent further deterioration of the joints.
Researchers in Denmark found that patients on the strict diet for 16 weeks lost radical amounts of weight and reported a huge improvement in their pain levels, the Daily Express reported.
The drastic diet is based on an intake of as little as 440 calories a day, as compared to the recommended 2,500 for a man and 2,000 for a woman.
Despite the method being controversial, the results of the study were described as a “revelation” by the team leader.
Volunteers ate special shakes, soups, bars and porridge and took mineral and vitamin supplements to ensure that they received key nutrients.
Moreover, the fat loss did not cause any reduction in the bone mass density.
“It was a fantastic surprise that patients with little or no mobility could lose that amount,” Professor Henning Bliddal, of Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, said.
“Thanks to the diet they were able to reduce their dependence on painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.”
Although the diet, a form of the Cambridge Weight Plan, proved successful, Prof Bliddal cautioned it is not meant for long-term use.
“Patients are very close to starving in the first few weeks and you cannot go on like that for very long. They need to follow the diet up with a sensible eating plan,” he said.
“Research shows that losing weight, however modest, when combined with exercise, is a panacea at every stage,” Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said.
“A healthy weight reduces the risk of developing the disease, relieves existing symptoms and helps to prevent further deterioration. Weight loss and exercise has been shown to achieve the same level of symptom relief as joint replacement surgery.”
“There are two major risk factors for developing osteoarthritis – ageing and obesity – and as both these factors are on the rise in the UK, it’s an obvious prediction to make that the outcome could be a massive cost,” he said.
A separate study of 454 patients at Wake Forest University in the US found strict dieting and moderate exercise slashed osteoarthritis knee pain in half.
Researchers concluded that the combination of controlling eating habits and keeping mobile was “potentially one of the best treatments”.
This study has been published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.